Sure, you might go to the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market for the fresh eggs, wild ramps, morel mushrooms, grass-fed beef and asparagus — and I do, too. But I also go for the area chef sightings.
The weekly community gathering has moved to its outdoor location on Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue Southeast for the season, and produce selection is already excellent. Area chefs aren’t wasting any time working the first fruits of the season into their menus, either.
At Rainbow Cafe in Pine Island, Chef Jeremy Olson lets the market inspire his menu at a rate that’s often too quick for this column deadline. Your best bet? Dine at Rainbow Cafe over the weekend when ingredients — and creativity — are at their freshest. A couple weeks ago after the first outdoor market of the season, Olson created a “market special” meatloaf, made from local eggs, oats, wild ramps, rhubarb and onions and served it with a local potato salad. All the ingredients came from five area farms/producers.
Zzest Cafe and Bar also has let the fruits (and meats) of the season reinvigorate their menu. They just added a Wisconsin spring lamb dish made with strozzapreti pasta, chili vinegar and pistachio gremolata. I also recommend scouring the menu for cameos of fresh asparagus, pesto, scallops, and mushrooms.
I’ve seen wild ramps and morels being worked into the rotation at Nosh Restaurant and Bar in Lake City in recent weeks, too. You can bet as the market selection expands with the growing season, so will the fresh and local options on area restaurant menus.
Other menu changes
The market itself aside, plenty of other menus are getting makeovers with the new season. It’s out with the soups and heavy foods, and in with light, bright and fresh.
Twigs Tavern and Grille is featuring a new ginger spice ahi tuna wrap, which is also offered gluten-free. The dish starts with sushi-grade seared ahi tuna wrapped in a tortilla with green onions, fresh lettuce, shredded mozzarella and wasabi-mayonnaise. If you’re looking for something fruity to go with your fish, check in with Twigs over the weekend — they’re planning to unveil a new summer martini menu in the next few days.
Local ice cream shop Flapdoodles also is getting in the spring mood with its ice cream flavors, including mango sorbet, coconut and lemon blueberry. They also put key lime pie sundaes back on the menu — a delicious confection of their own key lime ice cream, savory lime sauce, crushed graham crackers, whipped cream and a cherry on top. Oh, and if you’re gluten-free? Flapdoodles just started offering gluten-free sugar cones, available as a substitute for regular sugar cones upon request.
Finally, the Lost Cajun is spicing things up, too. Not only do they have the second installment of their crawfish boil this Saturday (call 258-5192 to see if there are any spots left); they also have added several new items to their menu.
The one I’m most looking forward to is the roast beef po boy: roast beef piled on a homemade loaf of garlic French bread and topped with gravy. There’s also a new salad for summer, called the pirogue (pronounced P-row) salad — the large wedge salad is a meal in itself, but top it with blackened shrimp for some added protein and flavor.
What are your plans for Memorial Day? Send me any holiday weekend-related restaurant and food news for next week’s column.